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It had only been a scratch, but Kíli not telling them about his injured arm had caused an infection, and suddenly he was being ordered to keep it in a sling, which was terribly embarrassing for a dwarf. Thorin said he didn’t feel bad for him.

“Serves you right for keeping it hidden.”

“Uncle, the last thing we needed was something as silly as this,” Kíli countered.

“And look where that left us.”

Kíli shut his mouth after that, but he pouted when Thorin wasn’t looking.

Being injured as a young dwarf was bad enough, but being unable to use your arm and therefore your hand while out on a life or death mission was a whole other level, and Kíli found himself getting more and more down about it. Fortunately Fíli and Bilbo tried to keep his spirits up. Kíli had an easy time changing moods.

They were in a cave, having narrowly escaped a bad downpour, and were all waiting for Bofur to start the fire. Kíli’s stomach ached with hunger, but he knew better than to show his greed. Instead, he made a move to rebraid parts of his hair that had come a bit undone during the frantic rush through the rain, and then it hit him.

“Aw, come on.”

“What’s wrong, brother?”

“I cannot use my other hand to braid my hair.”

Fíli snorted, though quickly tried to disguise it as something more sympathetic. “Your hair looks good.”

“I want it tighter. It feels as if it will come loose any second.”

“I can braid your hair for you.”

“After last time, I am not letting you anywhere near my hair.”

“Kíli, we were kids!”

“I do not trust you with my hair.”

“Stop it,” Thorin ordered. “I will braid your hair if you just stop.”

Kíli couldn’t believe the offer and therefore didn’t decline it. Thorin probably pitied him enough to not ask him to stand, and instead walked over and settled down behind him. A couple of seconds later he was working on his hair.

Kíli caught sight of Bilbo’s stunned expression, and knew he probably wore a similar one. Sure, this wasn’t the first time Thorin had helped Kíli with something trivial, but they were usually alone.

He reckoned they had no choice now.

“Uncle, you missed a strand,” Fíli said somewhere to Kíli’s right.

Thorin just huffed, probably partly amused and partly annoyed at the whole situation. “The things I do for my nephews.”

“Hey, I’ve never asked you to braid my hair.”

“No, Fíli, but do not think that I have forgotten about the things you have asked of me.”

Balin chuckled. “Do not be petty, Thorin.”

The fire was alight now, and Bombur was starting to prepare dinner. Not a moment too late.

Thorin’s hands were surprisingly gentle. Kíli could barely feel him pulling his hair. In fact, it was almost relaxing.

And then Fíli had to talk again.

“If you ever tire of being a king, Uncle, I think I know what profession would suit you.”

Thorin paused and Kíli fought back a whine. “Is this an attempt at being funny?”

“Just lightening the mood.”

Fíli never acted this way anymore. It was usually Kíli’s job, but he’d probably noticed how tense Thorin had been the past couple of days. More than usual, that is. Kíli understood why Fíli felt the need to bring some sort of familiarity into the mix.

Couldn’t he wait until Kíli’s hair was done though?

“Hey, that braid is slightly wonky.”

“You are testing my patience, and I can officially announce it is now nonexistent,” Thorin said, suddenly standing and leaving Kíli’s hair half-finished while he pounced on Fíli.

Kíli, Dwalin and Balin had seen this behavior before, of course, but for the rest of the Company it was an unusual sight to watch their leader tickle his nephew to tears. Kíli wasn’t worried about them thinking less of him, though. If anything it probably made him seem more sympathetic.

“You asked for this, Fíli,” Dwalin was saying when Fíli called for help. He was smirking at the younger dwarf. “And you are crazy to think any of us will get in the way of Thorin’s revenge.”

“Uncle, he called me crazy!”

That made pretty much the whole cave burst into laughter, and for once Kíli felt something akin to hope and joy spread in his body. He hadn’t felt that since he’d started wearing this stupid sling.

He turned his body fully to watch his uncle go to town on his older brother’s neck, which was the only part of him that wasn’t shielded at the moment. Fíli was actually giggling, which Kíli would tease him to death about later, but he barely had time to be smug about it before Thorin had suddenly turned to him with a grin that he only wore when he was up to no good.

Apparently an injured arm didn’t protect you from the evil fingers of your uncle, but at least he wasn’t at it for too long because of the sling.

“Stop giggling and let me finish your hair.”

“I was not giggling.”

“You were definitely giggling,” Fíli said as Thorin started braiding Kíli’s hair again. “It was pathetic.”

Kíli gaped at him and the others rolled their eyes. Really, it was like being home.